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Crafty Christmas stocking kits teach kids textile design

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Pupils at schools in Swansea and South Wales are learning about textile design by making Christmas stockings using cloth kits created by students at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The project is part of UWTSD’s schools outreach work, which aims to raise the profile of Surface Pattern and Textiles, giving pupils a taste of what it would be like to study the subject.

It’s also hoped that post Covid-19, the Christmas stocking project will grow, and pupils will be able to make and sell batches of stockings to raise money for their schools, as well as giving away filled stockings for charity.

The cloth kits make it easy for the pupils to make their own Christmas stockings: all they have to do is cut out the pre-printed shapes and sew them together. The attractive designs on the stockings were created by fourth year students at the university and printed onto fabric donated by clothing company TOAST. The students also created a digital download giving instructions for how to make the stockings, and a film showing the whole process, giving pupils a glimpse inside their studio and insight into what the Surface Pattern and Textiles course involves.

“The purpose of the video was to show how the kits are being made and printed in the workshops, because usually this is the time of year when we would be inviting the pupils into the university for taster days,” said Georgia McKie, senior lecturer in Surface Pattern and Textiles, who co-ordinated the project. “This is an alternative gesture, and making the film was a lovely learning opportunity for our fourth-year students. I’m very impressed with their work on this project, which formed part of their Creative Enterprise and Practice module. They worked as team and played to their strengths: some are great digitally, some are great at understanding pattern cutting, while others excel at screen printing. None had prior experience in putting a video together, but they became competent at it.”

So far, the project has seen cloth kits go out to Gowerton School in Swansea, where a fourth year UWTSD student also ran an accompanying workshop for year 9 and 10 pupils, and to St Clare’s Senior School in Porthcawl, whose Head of Art, Louise Williams (a UWTSD Surface Pattern and Textiles graduate herself) praised the resources made by the students, which were used in a session titled ‘A morning in the life of a Surface Pattern Design student’.

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“Our Art and Design students have had a fabulous morning and thoroughly enjoyed their textile taster session today, in conjunction with the incredible BA and MDes (Hons) Surface Pattern Design degree in Swansea,” she said.

“A morning in the life of a Surface Pattern Design student’ meant they had the opportunity to make the pre-printed, screen printed stockings from kits provided by the Surface Pattern Design department. They also loved the sustainable aspect of the stockings which were screen-printed onto waste fabric donated by TOAST. We have many students who go onto follow this degree course, one being Zara James, who is a past pupil of ours and now part of the team behind this initiative #haveyougottheedge?”

In addition to going to schools, kits have been sent to students at Cardiff and Vale College, and further afield to colleges in Bath and Southport. They have also been delivered to course applicants and people who would usually be attending open days at the university. In addition, instructions for making your own kit are available for anyone to download online.

Georgia is delighted by the students’ efforts and ingenuity and has enjoyed collaborating with former students like Louise who have become schoolteachers and were keen to get their classes involved. These alumni are part of a strong network of UWTSD Surface Pattern and Textiles graduates who remain in touch with the university and take part in activities to help to inspire undergraduates and potential new students.

“We see ourselves as a community – in the 20 years of the programme we have gathered people along the way, many of whom now come back to speak to our students about their careers,” says Georgia. “It’s part of the DNA of the programme, and going into schools and colleges is an important part of sharing that warmth.”

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Property

Minister launches ‘Ending Homelessness Action Plan’ with new funding for private rented sector to play their part

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The Welsh Government say their commitment to end homelessness will be made clear in the Senedd later today as Climate Change Minister Julie James launches the Ending Homelessness Action Plan.

The Minister, who says that when homelessness occurs it should be ‘rare, brief and unrepeated’, will also announce a new £30million funding pot over five years for local authorities. 

Under the Private Rented Sector Leasing Scheme, private property owners will be encouraged to lease their properties to local authorities in return for a rent guarantee and additional funding to improve the condition of their property.

Local authorities can then use these properties to provide affordable and good quality homes for people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Tenants will benefit from the security of long-term tenures of between five to 20 years and help to maintain their stay in a long-term home, such as mental health support or debt and money management advice.

This sits alongside the Welsh Government’s ambitious plan to build 20,000 low carbon, good quality and affordable homes for rent over the next five years.

The Homelessness Action Plan builds on the unprecedented work undertaken by local authorities, social landlords, public services and third sector partners, who have provided accommodation and support for more than 15,000 people experiencing or threatened with homelessness during the pandemic.

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The Plan has been shaped by the recommendations of the independent expert Homelessness Action Group, reflecting the changes required to prevent homelessness and make the shift to rapid rehousing so that people are in temporary accommodation for the shortest possible time.

The plan makes clear the need to prevent the problems that lead to homelessness from happening in the first place so homelessness can finally be ended in Wales.

The causes of homelessness extend well beyond access and availability of affordable homes. Ending homelessness is a cross-sector, cross-government priority relevant to health, social services, education, criminal justice, community services and our wider economy.

All this is recognised within the Action Plan, as is the need for wide-reaching legislative and policy reform.

Yesterday the Minister met Jonathan Lewis, 42, from Swansea. Jonathan has overcome huge challenges throughout his childhood, teenage and adult life and has finally been able to find and thrive in a secure home.

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As an adult, Jonathan found himself sofa surfing or sleeping in his car for extended periods of his life.

After receiving a network of support, Jonathan now lives in a good quality and affordable one bedroom home rented to him by Caredig, and works full-time for the Wallich, helping homeless people like he once was, into supported housing.

Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest and most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a house, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

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“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Meeting Jonathan today – who really is an inspiration – just shows the importance to every-one of a decent, affordable and stable home. As well as all the hard work Jonathan has put in, services have worked together to give him the support he needs. This means Jonathan is now in a good position to provide this support to others facing hardship and potential homelessness.

“I want to say thank you again for the extraordinary work of those working in homelessness and housing support services across local authorities, registered social landlords and the third sector. Each and every day they work to help and support those without a home.  They transform lives, they offer hope and they have undoubtedly saved many lives throughout this pandemic. They should be proud of all they have done and continue to do. My priority now is to build on our successes to prevent homelessness and ensure that when it does, it is rare, brief and unrepeated”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It was a privilege to meet Jonathan today and hear how after being supported into his own home, he has truly flourished. Everyone should have that same opportunity, so we welcome this bold and vital plan to end homelessness in Wales. 

“The Welsh Government-led response to the pandemic has not only delivered decisive action to prevent and reduce homelessness during the public health emergency but has laid strong foundations for ensuring the long-lasting, positive impact of the progress made over recent years.  

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“This plan rightly recognises that the work done to ensure no one is left out of support must continue, as must the joined-up approach across services in ending homelessness as a public health issue. It shows how we can put the measures in place to prevent homelessness wherever possible and respond as quickly as possible when people lose their homes. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government, councils, health services and other charities in putting it into action.”

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, and co-author of new Health Impact Assessment report, ‘No place like home?’, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and measures to reduce transmission of the virus, has had many wide-ranging impacts on the population of Wales, and has led to many people spending more time in their homes, highlighting the importance of good quality, affordable and secure housing.

“The need for security in relation to having, and keeping, a home and being surrounded by a safe and consistent home environment, and its impact on both physical and mental health and well-being has long been recognised. During times of uncertainty, such as in the COVID-19 pandemic, a home can provide a secure and stable base for individuals and households in order to help them live and work through and ultimately recover from the pandemic and its effects.

“The action plan will be timely for tackling inequalities, particularly those exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Jonathan’s Story

Jonathan Lewis, 42

Jonathan had a shaky start in life. His much-loved ‘Nana’, who he lived with alone, sadly passed away when Jonathan was just seven. He then experienced domestic violence within his family home at a young age.

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He was exposed to shoplifting and petty crime in his day-to-day life growing up. Jonathan’s step-dad even used to take him on outings to break into cars at night. Though he says he has fond memories [aged eight] of eating beans on toast in the police station with his brother after his step-dad had been arrested, he ponders over how it all felt ‘completely normal’ to him at the time.

Jonathan put himself into care at 12 years old when home became ‘too much to handle’. As a result of this early trauma, he started using drugs.

At aged 15, Jonathan was sent to a young offenders’ institute for the first time.

Though Jonathan had briefly settled at aged 20 to have children, without support to address his early trauma he continued to use drugs to numb the pain of his past.

His mental ill health resulting from his past trauma were further compounded by homelessness, as he found himself sofa surfing and sleeping in his car. He was at an all-time low aged 30. Jonathan turned to heroin to self-medicate, resulting in further offending- for which Jonathan is very remorseful- and a longer spell in prison.

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In prison, Jonathan worked hard, with access to support, to turn his life around. He signed up to a twelve-step drugs recovery programme and soon gained qualifications after taking part in cookery and other courses that were offered to him.

On leaving prison, Jonathan was helped to access supported housing for people dealing with past trauma and mental ill health, and picked up work here and there in kitchens and on building sites.

In 2018, Jonathan was given the keys to his new home. A one-bedroom property leased to him by Caredig.

Thanks to his determination, access to stable housing and support to address his early trauma, he’s been able to turn his life around.

Now, Jonathan works full-time for The Wallich, where he helps people experiencing homelessness, just like he did, into a permanent home, with the support they need to fulfil their potential.

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Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest of my life as I’ve had to mentally adjust. I don’t have drugs to numb the pain anymore so I have to face head on what has happened to me and the impact I have had on others too. They’ve been the hardest but the most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a home, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I have so much thanks for all the people that have given me a chance, trusted and enabled me to turn my life around. Now I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

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Business

Swansea estate agency scoops silver at leading industry awards ceremony

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Belvoir Swansea has scooped Silver within the Welsh Agency of the Year category at the UK-Wide Negotiator Awards 2021.

The Award Ceremony, which is the pinnacle for UK residential agencies, recognises the innovative agencies that go above and beyond for customers and communities; with this year’s awards focussing on adaptability during COVID-19.

Belvoir Swansea achieved the award following its most successful year to date (2020-21) since launching the business in 2010.

During what was a challenging time for businesses across the country, Belvoir bucked the trend and opted to further invest in the business. In September 2020, it opened its third office in the heart of Sketty, in November 2020, it re-located its Castle Street office to Swansea Marina, and relocated its Mumbles office in July 2021 to a more prominent location at 101b Newton Road.

Ben Davies, Managing Director of Belvoir Swansea, said: “It was an honour to win Silver. We were up against another six excellent agencies from across Wales, so we were really blown away to have won. The past 18 months has been difficult for businesses of all sizes and nature, so to win silver in such challenging times means even more to us.

“We have grown significantly over the past 11 years. We began as a husband-and-wife duo in our Castle Street office, and now employ 18 members of staff across three prime locations in Swansea. In that time, we have expanded our offer from just lettings to sales and have a brilliant portfolio of properties across the whole of Swansea.

“I’ve lived in Swansea my whole life and I am passionate about supporting the causes that mean a lot to our clients and the local community; from supporting local schools and sports clubs, to raising money for Action for Children.

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“We look forward to growing the business further across the coming years and look forward to experiencing the changing face of Swansea, as the redevelopments take shape across the city. It will undoubtedly attract more businesses and residents, which can only be a positive for the region.”

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Coronavirus

Health chief urges people to follow Welsh Gov COVID guidance – and supports action against businesses that don’t

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woman wearing face mask

Director of Public Health for Swansea Bay University Health Board, Dr Keith Reid has issued a statement urging people to follow the Welsh Government’s guidance on staying safe through the pandemic – and supports action against businesses that refuse to do so.

The warning comes as news of the new Omicron COVID variant starting to spread in the UK, coronavirus infection rates continuing to be high in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and enforcement action taken by Swansea Council and the Welsh Government against independent cinema Cinema& Co who have refused to follow COVID safety measures.

Dr Keith Reid

Dr Reid said: “We are now seeing the emergence of the new Omicron variant with the accompanying uncertainty.  This makes it more important than ever for us all to act in a responsible way that protects our local communities and the vulnerable people within them, and the NHS.

“Although we all want the pandemic to end, Covid is undeniably still with us. Many families across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have already experienced – or are currently living through – the anguish of loved ones being seriously ill or having died with this virus.  Others, of all ages, are suffering long-lasting impact on their own health following Covid infection.

“In the last two weeks alone in Swansea Bay 10 people have died in our hospitals with Covid. Today, we have 35 Covid-positive patients in our hospital beds and five are seriously ill in intensive care.

“Since the pandemic began, our staff have witnessed almost 1,000 patient deaths with Covid, and that figure does not include people who died outside of our hospitals. That is not only a tragedy for the families involved, but it has exacted a heavy physical and mental toll on our NHS staff, who are exhausted and yet still carrying on as best they can.”

Dr Reid added: “For businesses the rules are quite clear and there is a statutory duty of care towards customers and clients who might use business premises and also for staff.

“I support enforcement action taken against any business that deliberately flouts the current regulations.

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“These regulations are not made lightly. They are put in place to protect the public and workers. They also allow business to continue to operate, but as safely as possible.

“The regulations are based on Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advice that a number of different ‘low cost’ interventions all have a part to play in reducing risk, and that together these actions mitigate against the risk of tougher measures needing to be reintroduced later.

“Included in the regulations is the need, for example, for premises to be properly risk-assessed so important safety issues like ventilation, social distancing, etc, can be considered and managed. Covid passes or negative lateral flow tests have another part to play in reducing the risk of further infections, particularly in premises regarded as higher risk. The passes are not the full answer, but they have a part to play.

Support and guidance on how businesses can implement reasonable control measures is available from the local authority, and is outlined in detail by the Welsh Government.

Meanwhile, I continue to urge everyone to carry on taking sensible everyday actions to protect their own health, and those of others:

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  • Make sure you have had your Covid vaccinations.
  • Self-isolate and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms, or symptoms which are unusual for you.
  • Wear a face-covering where you need to.
  • Open windows and doors to let the fresh air in when you meet up with others.
  • Avoid stuffy, crowded places – get together outdoors if you can.
  • Wash your hands frequently.”
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